Michael Wiesenberg’s New York Times crossword
Not quite as entertaining on the fill front as yesterday’s puzzle (I can’t get excited about a DRILL PRESS or UTILITY POLE, personally), but I did like this 70-word puzzle.
- 1a. [What many checks are for], DEPOSIT ONLY. Maybe this is an 11-letter partial that wants its “for” and maybe it isn’t. But I like having checks to deposit. Do you need my mailing address?
- 17a. [Alternative to lemon chiffon], BANANA CREAM. Mmm.
- 28a. [Victor Herbert's "naughty" girl], MARIETTA. I have no idea what the clue is about, but my sister’s mother-in-law Marietta likes crosswords, and I bet she would get this one.
- 49a. [London tabloid], DAILY MIRROR. If you have ever passed along a Huffington Post link that’s sourced to the Daily Mirror, you should atone for your sins. (That one about the Polish dentist who removed all of her ex-boyfriend’s teeth? Utterly fictional.) It’s a dreadful (though sometimes entertaining) rag.
- 53a. [1994 Olympic skating champion], OKSANA BAIUL.
- 6d. [Minnesota county west of St. Louis], ITASCA. Named for Lake Itasca, head of the Mississippi River. Is it really true that Itasca is short for veritas caput, “true head”? I have a soft spot for Minnesota.
- 7d. [Large lunar crater], TYCHO. Named after my favorite astronomer, Tycho “Who’s Got My Nose?” Brahe.
- 37d. [Game requiring many plug-ins?], MAD-LIBS.
- 40d. [Home to Liszt and Goethe], WEIMAR. Wasn’t I just saying in Wednesday’s review of Ben Tausig’s Ink Well puzzle that I didn’t know Weimar was a city? Bach and Marlene Dietrich also lived there.
Things that gave me pause:
- 12d. [Very tense], OVERSTRUNG. Is this a word? I wanted overwrought or high-strung. Dictionary says it’s a piano string term or a “dated” word for “nervous or tense.” Not a fan of the dated/archaic/obsolete words in the crossword, unless it’s something cool like yclept.
- 36d. [Finely tempered swords], TOLEDOS. Had no idea. Was leaning towards something like TORADOS.
- 42d. [American Revolution's "Mad Anthony"], WAYNE. I don’t think I ever learned about him. But sit down and I’ll tell you a bit about Casimir Pulaski.
- 20a. [Like some evidence in arson cases], ASHY. The only context in which I encounter this word outside of crosswords relates to skin, particularly dry skin in folks with more melanin (but even a palepink like myself gets a tad ashy in the wintertime). And yet this word never gets clued with that sense. I blame the dictionary (which seems to be unaware of the dry-skin sense) and the general whiteness of the crossword crowd.
- 29a. [Thomas called the Queen of Memphis Soul], CARLA. I bet some of you can point us to her greatest songs. Me, I don’t think I’ve even heard of her.
Brad Wilber and Doug Peterson’s Los Angeles Times crossword—Andy’s review
Another crackerjack Wilberson puzzle. I sped through this one: my time would have been even faster had it not been for those meddling 3×4 corners. Anyway, let’s dive right into the factoids:
- 15a, BLUE CURACAO [Liqueur used to color a Bloody Smurf cocktail]. Great clue: tells me I need a blue liqueur, probably with the word “blue” in the name since it’s not in the clue. Never seen or had a Bloody Smurf, but this has to be BLUE CURACAO. A Google search informs me that while the more common version of a Bloody Smurf uses blueberry Schnapps and cranberry juice, there’s also a version with 1/2 oz vodka, 1/2 oz Blue Curacao liqueur, and 1/2 oz Chambord raspberry liqueur.
- 25a, SBARRO [Chain that makes a lot of dough]. The only places I’ve ever seen a Sbarro are malls and train stations. And yet, it turns out that, if you so desired, you could get Sbarro in India, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Guatemala, and a whole host of other countries.
- 44d, ARIETTA [Short operatic piece]. For the life of me, I can’t think of a short operatic piece that is generally referred to as an “arietta.” Maybe some older stuff by Claudio Monteverdi? It’s a word I know from crosswords, not from reading about classical music; I do know of a piano piece by Grieg called “Arietta,” but I don’t know if the title means “short operatic piece,” or if it’s referring to someone named “Arietta.”
- 28d, DIONE [Saturn satellite]. Discovered and named by Giovanni Cassini. Cassini named the four moons he discovered (Tethys, Dione, Rhea and Iapetus) Sidera Lodoicea (“the stars of Louis”) in honor of king Louis XIV.
- 17a, SLACKTIVIST [Pejorative nickname for one supporting a cause via unproductive feel-good measures]. Insta-get for me for two reasons: (1) BEQ put it in his Themeless Monday this week (due credit to Wilberson; this puzzle was almost certainly constructed before BEQ’s, despite the later publication date), and (2) It, along with its counterpart clicktivism, have been in the news surrounding the recent Supreme Court hearings about DOMA.
- 58a, MAD ABOUT YOU [Sitcom about the Buchmans]. Did You Know? Mad About You takes place in the same universe as Friends: Phoebe’s twin sister Ursula Buffay (played by Lisa Kudrow) is a waitress in Mad About You. After a successful career as a pornographic actress, Ursula becomes Governor of New York in M.A.Y.’s finale.
- 62a, BRAZEN IT OUT [Stand firm in the face of defeat]. I have never heard this phrase before. Is it a regional thing?
- 64a, ABRACADABRA ["Prepare to be amazed!"]. Prepare to be amazed.
- 5d, ECKHART [Aaron of "Love Happens"]. If Aaron were cluing himself, I somehow doubt this is the credit he’d choose.
- 7d, FRIML [Czech composer Rudolf]. I’d call Friml an American composer, but I’m nitpicking. I don’t think Friml is particularly well-known, but if you know him, it’s probably for Rose-Marie or The Vagabond King.
- 30d, LOBOS [University of New Mexico team]. Most recently in the news for falling victim to the Harvard Crimson in the first round (I refuse to call it the “second round” when the “first round” is just those play-in games) of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
- 49d, REBEC [Pear-shaped fiddle].This definitely seems like an instrument that would show up in an indie folk band.
There was some crunchy fill in this one: XII, AUTH, RESP, BARI, RONI, ALLA, (FRIML, to many), AS AN, ON A, UTA stood out to me as the worst of the bunch. But there were a lot of highlights, including the not-previously-mentioned BALLET FLATS, MADE HASTE, DISRAELI, COUNT ME IN!, ENRON, ATOMIC AGE, SO THERE!, AUDIOBOOKS, and MARIMBA. I’m feeling about 3.33 stars. Until next week!
Stan Newman’s Newsday crossword, “Saturday Stumper” (pen name Anna Stiga)
Okay! Houseguests at Fiend Headquarters means we go straight to the time-saving bulleted list for this fun and challenging themeless:
- 1a. [''Sesame Street'' character since 2003], MAMA BEAR. I had BABY BEAR. Didn’t know there was a MAMA.
- 1d. [Acacia cousin] wanted to be LOCUST, but the B in BABY nixed that. MIMOSA? Oh, right. Forgot that one.
- 19a. [Big P&G brand], OLAY. Fresh clue, right?
- 23a. [A major's E], SOL. All crossings for me.
- 30a. [''__ invidia'' (unenvied: Lat.)], SINE. Latin for “without.”
- 40a. [Non-island Caribbean nation], GUYANA. I kinda wanted MEXICO. That has both Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean borders, no?
- 55a. [What a hand might say], “AYE, AYE.” Deckhand, on a ship. See also 3- and 4-Down.
- 3d. ['60s sitcom sailor], MCHALE. Never watched McHale’s Navy. Wanted Gilligan or the Skipper, too.
- 4d. [Phone greeting proposed by Bell], AHOY. That’s it! I’m switching to “ahoy,” effective immediately.
- 30d. [It's heard in ''Slumdog Millionaire''], SITAR. Still haven’t seen that movie.
- 34d. [Ersatz golf-ball holder], EGG CRATE. All crossings for me. Sacks also work if you don’t have a spare egg carton.
- 35d. [Superman claim to fame], X-RAY EYES. Great answer.
- 36d. [Timidity], COLD FEET. Great answer.
- 58d. [Canadian penny, in Quebec], SOU. Who knew?
4.5 stars. Smooth and lively, with knotty clues.